Illustrator Profile - Lisk Feng: "Believe in your work. Love what you do."

By Robert Newman   Thursday March 8, 2018

Lisk Feng is an illustrator who grew up in China, studied at the Maryland Institute College of Art, and now lives in Queens, New York. Although she is primarily and editorial illustrator, she has also done commercial work and product design, and is currently working on two children’s books. Her work is created digitally, primarily with Photoshop, but the illustrations maintain an old school, hand-done feel.

My name is Lisk Feng. I am a freelance illustrator. I do work mostly for newspapers and magazines such as The New York Times, New Yorker, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, The Wall Street Journal, Wired, Penguin and so on.

I am originally from China and now based in Queens, New York City.

Both my parents are artists. They graduated from the same school I went to back in China, the China Academy of Art. My mum taught art both inside and outside of school, and my dad was in an underground rock band and now is a digital media artist doing experimental performances. The good thing about them being artists is they never said no to my choice when I decided to be an illustrator. Instead of worrying, they supported me on every level.

I grew up in a small town; it was beautiful and isolated. When I was a teenager, my grandma had a backyard in the city, and there were many flowers and animals in it. My grandpa used blackboard paint to cover the wooden door, which was used to separate the animals and plants. My summer time would be spent whole days sitting under the sun with plants and animals, doodling on the blackboard, drawing imaginary islands or designing my kingdom.

Technically speaking, I started working as a full-time illustrator right after I graduated from the Illustration Practice grad program at Maryland Institute College of Art in 2014. However, I began publishing illustrations for Chinese magazines and novels in 2006 when I was a student in China.

I create my illustrations in my room/studio, working on a lovely wooden desk with a comfortable chair. I recently replaced all my old furniture. I like discovering different chairs and desks; I finally find the right desk and the safe seat. After working in my apartment for more than three years, this environment becomes my life, so I want to make it cozy and pleasant. The right chair can also prevent back problems. A significant changing like this gave me some fresh feelings while working. Besides, my black cat Poepoe is always sleeping next to me.

I create my illustrations digitally, mainly using Photoshop. I sometimes scan handmade textures, but overall it has no rules, I change the way of working process all the time.

It was doing my first children’s book for Flying Eye Books, called <Everest>. I never thought I could handle long-term projects because of my impatient personality, so I always did editorial illustrations. However, at the end of last year I felt burned out after tons of short turn-around projects, and my work was showing my tiredness. So I took the book job and spent several months straight researching and brainstorming. It is still a work in progress, but I am super excited about it.

Once I slowed down, my thinking was better. I realized that my brain needs a different kind of working mode once in a while to be able to get back on track and produce good work. Now I am also working with Abrams and Kids Can Press to get two more children’s books done; they are going to release sometime next year.

Miyazaki and Sakura Momoko. I watched their animations and decided to be an illustrator or animator when I was in my young age. That was sort of where everything started.

Right now there are too many things influencing me, but the first hint of wanting to do screen printing is the moment I saw Tatsuro Kiuchi’s work when I was 20 years old in college in China.

Someone I like is Josh Cochran. He is very generous and friendly. I have learned a lot from him. Being a nice person is way more important than being a good illustrator, and that was my first lesson out of school. I also admire Korean animator and illustrator Lee Kyutae. His softness and craziness are glued together in one piece. I want to look into his mind and see his sensitive, artistic brain in person.

The internet is as handy as possible nowadays. I am also a book lover—I like to read old novels like 1984 and The Shining. I always read children’s books as a requirement for creating narrative illustrations. Recently I reread E. Nesbit’s books—it was like reliving my childhood. The taste of summer, adventure, and kids, all made me want to be an illustrator.

It must be dealing with paperwork on time and not going outside of my apartment.

Produced by 3Drops Studio, HelloKongzi is the first cultural renewal program, which applies cartoon images and hundreds of thoughts of traditional Chinese culture. Its goal is to help the world understand China and its culture.

The event happened at Grand Central Station and Times Square, and it featured interactive installation devices, VR contents, and rare 360-degree projection mapping.

The work I created included five illustration pieces projected on the wall of Grand Central Station. They represented the five elements from Kongzi philosophy: benevolence, righteousness, manners, wisdom, and credit.

I wish I could do a cover illustration for AD Paul Buckley of Penguin. His covers are amazing.

I love working with Matt Dorfman. He is the AD for The New York Times Book Review. He gives artists total freedom but still keeps them close to the main point. Illustrators can suggest and be involved in the page design too so that the words and illustrations can be connected, not isolated from each other. I always love that section when I have Sunday newspapers.

Jon Han, Dadu Shin, and Keith Negley. I am fond of artists who decided not to stick to a particular style. They use different materials and methods all the time but still have a recognizable look. A style is not the tool you are using or a face you draw; it is something in you. No matter what tools you are using, it is not changing the core of your work.

I did product designs for Stick With Me Chocolate several times, which was refreshing, and a stop-motion animation when I graduated from MICA three years ago. I sometimes make music too, and this ability finally got to be used for a project with Daniel Wellington Watch promotional animation. I did a short piece of music for a legit project for the first time.

I mostly use social networks. I think that is the most useful way to let people get to know you and your work. I have gotten assignments, without sending any emails, because of my social networks. If I do not get enough jobs, I send some simple emails to clients whom I worked with before to show them my new projects.

Believe in your work. Love what you do.

See more Lisk Feng work, new illustrations, and updates:
Lisk Feng website
Twitter: @lisk_feng
Instagram: @liskfeng